Mustered Out on Regina
How Sarge won the Starburst for Extreme Heroism
When Clive rolled Sarge as a character I was referee. During his 16th term aged 34 and on detactched commando duties he earned the SEH during a raid.
I have always played the SEH as equivalent to the Victoria Cross in terms of importance and tribute, so having a character finally earn one I thought it would be fun to roleplay the engagement which led to this decoration.
I created the game situation and we played it out using Striker and Snapshot rules. The only variation was that as Sarge was going to be a hero I would allow him 2d6 re-rolls of dice throws that directly effected his character: in true hero fashion he rolled a 12!
During the course of play Clive convinced me to allow some of his re-rolls to be used to effect his troops morale, I also gave his troops a +ve modifier and the local milita a -ve modifier as a result of how he roleplayed the meeting with the local national guard Captain!
Other than that tatics and luck ran the show:
Although full details have been suppressed under Imperial Censor Order 114-AC/3 Date: 101-1098, it has today been confirmed that Master Sargent Matt Turner, on detached duty with Marine Commando Flight 301, will be awarded The Starburst for Extreme Heroism. He receives this decoration for his part in a rescue mission within the Regina sub-sector earlier this year.
Whilst undertaking close orbit training exercises 3 Recon squads of commandoes from the Fleet troop transport “Tigress” (at the time 4 days in system travel away) under the command of Lt Wayne Brittain and with Srgt Turner as acting Senior NCO received a call for help from the Imperial Embassy on the system’s primary world.
Racial, tribal and religious tensions on the balkanised world had flared up and a state of emergency had been declared in the Capitol city of the Starport supporting nation. As much of the hostility was aimed at offworlders the newly established Imperial Embassy was threatened.
Hoping to make a lightening dash for the Embassy to evacuate the diplomats and their staff Lt Brittain landed his team of 14 at the Starport. With 6 high speed snatch landrovers he planned to cover the short 3km distance to the Embassy quickly before resistance could be organised, empty the Embassy, and return straight to the safety of the Starport.
With the limited resources available to him and the added pressure of knowing that a Senior Sector Noble XXXXWITHHELDXXXX was in attendance at the Embassy, Lt Brittain’s strategy seemed the most likely to succeed. However the commandoes were betrayed from the start. Locals sympathetic to the uprising, working within the Starport, tipped off insurgents to the team’s arrival. As the Ship’s Boat released the unarmored vehicles they came under heavy machinegun and mortar fire. The ambush was devestating, 2 commandoes where killed, Lt Brittain and 8 others where injured. Only Sargent Turner’s vehicle made it off the Starport Tarmac – mainly because he drove right through the boundary fencing!
With trooper John Wilding giving support with the roof mounted auto-cannon Srgt Turner and trooper Clive Cannings exited the vehicle in order to engage the enemy. The heavy auto-cannon fire coupled with laser small arms attacks by the two dismounted commandoes suppressed the enemy fire long enough for Lt Brittain to withdraw his injured men to the safety of the Ship’s Boat interior. Recordings of comms chatter between Lt Brittain and Srgt Turner show that Brittain then ordered Turner and the 2 uninjured commandoes to “get the fuck over to the Embassy asap and stop the local goatfuckers from buggering the nobs to death!”
Whilst the distance from Starport to Embassy was only 3km it was mostly through the densely built up “Startown” district, characterised by long narrow streets fronted with multistory buildings. Having lost the element of supprise Turner soon realised this environment could quickly trap his depleted squad. Already the landrover was being targeted by sporadic small arms fire from tribal gunmen on the rooftops. Trusting to speed Turner gunned the engine and dashed for the Embassy. (Later examination of the vehicle suggests that during the journey to the Embassy and its subsequent use as a pillbox it was hit no less than 900 times by bullets.)
Whilst the Imperial marines were all equiped with combat armor by the time they reached the Embassy all three had received minor wounds, such was the ferocity of the gunfire aimed at their lone vehicle. Indeed witness within the building descibe the landrover as arriving “clouded in smoke and on four wheelrims instead of tyres!”
Upon arriving at the Embassy Turner probably felt optimistic for the first time since landing at the Starport. The Embassy was located within an area that had once been Royal parkland, and such was the historic association that this part of the capital had yet to suffer any major lawlessness. Even better the Embassy building was a solid stone country manor, located on an artifical island in the middle of a kilometre wide lake. With the nearest lakeshore 400m away and the sole access to the island being a 10m wide 500m long unwalled causeway the Embassy did at least offer the chance of being defendable.
Whilst the dramatic arrival of the commandoes caused excitement within the Embassy compound realisation as to the very small size of the relief column brought dispair. The Embassy had been monitering local broadcasts and the Ambassador’s staff were of the opinion that they would soon be targeted by the insurgents. Turner and his men reported at once to the Embassy’s garrison commander: Captain Peter Roberts. Roberts along with a juinor Imperial aid quickly filled Turner in with details of the political situation: most of the civilian population was in a state of rebellion with infighting occuring along tribal and religious lines. The regular army generals were sitting on the fence, they had confined all troops to barracks and grounded the airforce. This left the police force and local national guard units to try and maintain order.
To his credit Roberts recognised Turner as a combat veteran and readily admitted to having never seen action himself. Whilst maitaining a nominal command role he informed the Ambassador and the Imperial XXXXXWITHHELDXXXXX that he was turning over tactical planning to Turner. It has been suggested that placing the responsibility for the defense of the Embassy in the hands of an NCO met with some resistance. However a unnamed source reports hearing Roberts shout down any opposition quoting him as saying “I for one don’t want my head on a pike or my balls and dick in some peasent witches pot so I suggest we all shut the fuck up and do what the Sargent suggests!”
Turner quickly started to assess the resources at his disposal. On paper Roberts commanded a garrison of 40 Imperial marines, in reality whilst all 40 were indeed marines non of them, with the exception of the motorpool corporal had ever seen combat. The rosta read as follows:
Captain P. Roberts
Lieutenants Walters and Brown both fresh from the acadamey
4 motorpool mechenics including corporal James
2 × 4 man security squads
The Ambassdor, his wife, their children and the civilian staff totaled 32 non combatants
Imperial XXXXXWITHHELDXXXXX and her partner had an 8 man bodyguard detail, who whilst drawn from the Imperial security forces were again not front line troops.
This gave Turner a defending force comprising:
1 Vetern command stand (Himself)
1 Veteran Squad (3 man)
4 Average Squads (4 man)
7 Raw squads (4 man)
Equipment was also a mixed bag: Turner, Wilding and Cannings all had Combat Armor, laser rifles and HE grenades. The garrison had 10 suits of CA and an equal number of cloth. The bodyguards had flak jackets. The small arms available amounted to 20 guass rifles, 3 RAM grenade launchers (but only smoke and gas rounds), 10 ACR’s (with only HE Ammo) and 20 assorted pistols. The only support weapon was the landrover mounted auto-cannon.
Whilst military resources were low the Embassy itself was a least a building that had evolved and grown through some of the country’s most violent upheavals. Of thick walled limestone construction its windows where small and narrow, all doors solid and reinforced and its rooftop was surrounded by a shoulder high crenelated wall. Situated in the centre of the island, which was vegitation free, the Embassy faced out towards the causeway. At its rear was a high walled enclosure housing stables, servants quarters and a boathouse. The causeway road swept round both sides of a large sunken fountain which had been drained for repairs. The only other building on the island was a two storey round tower situated near the end of the causeway.
Whilst surveying his situation Turner contacted Brittain. The lieutenant informed him that he had been able to achieve orbit, but with every surviving member of his group injured he could offer no support. From communications he’d received he informed Turner that the Tigress and relief was about four days away.
Due to military censor restrictions we can’t report all that transpired during those four days, but based on eyewitness and survivor accounts along with those official documents released by the military to support Turner’s decoration we have pieced together most of what happened. It was now just past noon on day 1.
Turner at once began to reinforce and fortify his position, he had the civilian staff gather every pillowcase and sack within the Embassy and using the sand from the small beach next to the boathouse he had them produce sandbags. Trooper Cannings and one of the security teams were despatched to the round tower in combat armor and with guass rifles to set up a forward observation post. Corporal James and the other security squad, again with guass rifles and combat armor manned the concrete dugout that the drained fountain became. Turner saw to it that both these postions had enough water and rations to last the men manning them five or six days. Trooper Wilding was positioned within the hulk of the landrover to man the auto-cannon. Two raw squads in cloth armor and armed with the last of the guass rifles were placed on the flanking edges of the roof, whilst the five remaining unarmored raw squads, armed with ACR’s and handguns, were positioned three on the ground floor covering the front windows and two on the first floor covering the rear. The bodyguards formed two flying squads armed with pistols and a RAM grenade launcher each and covered the enterence hall which also held the entrance to the buildings cellar, where the non-combatants sheltered. Roberts and Lieutenant Walters supported the slightly isolated first floor squads whilst Brown covered the roof. One of the communications staff canabalised the comms gear from the suits of combat armor so all squads could maintain voice commuications. The sandbags were used to re-inforce the fountain, the ground floor front windows and to turn the landrover into a pillbox housing the auto-cannon. By early evening the defenses had been completed and first watches taken as the defenders settled in for the night.
That night Srgt Turner visited each squad in turn as well as the civilians in the celler. He briefly explained his battle plan to all. Having dug in he expected each squad to hold its position and report any sightings of natives both military and civilian. Rules of engagment were simple, “Shoot anyone landing on the island if they’re armed. Armed is anyone with a gun, a stick that looks like a gun, a stick held like a gun or even just a stick.” No squads other than the bodyguards were to advance from their positions, if possible retreat was to be avoided as well. The rest of the night passed quietly except for a brief period of distant gunfire in the early hours.
Dawn brought a heavy mist which blanketed most of the island, which at its highest point was only five meters above the water level of the lake. James reported that, unusally, no sounds of commuter traffic could be heard from the central motorway. To the south, the location of the capitol’s finacial district, three thick columns of smoke could be seen. The defenders breakfasted and having remained unmolested during the night spirits rose. By mid-morning the embryonic feelings of hope developing in some of the defenders hearts were dashed as James reported a mob of about 40 civilians, armed with clubs, approaching the head of the causeway. Stationed at the pillbox Turner used the sight on his laser rifle to survey the crowd. Satisfied that he could identify no firearms within the group Turner ordered all squads to hold their fire. Then taking the remaining RAM grenade launcher he walked to the junction of the island with the causeway. Seeing the lone soldier appear on the causeway the mob surged towards the island, as they reached the mid point Turner fired two smoke rounds towards them , both of which overshot, spured on by this poor display of markmanship the mob continued to advance. Using the movement of the newly created smoke cloud as a guide to any drifting Turner accuratley placed two gas grenades so their stinging fumes enveloped the mob which disintergrated as its components fled. Those only half blinded by the tear gas suddenly found themselves having to retreat through a cloud of dense smoke and the cries of alarm accompanied by the sound of splashes suggest the mob was in full rout both along the causeway and off it. As the smoke cleared the causway was revealed to be empty appart from one lone prone figure. Turner ordered two of Cannings’ squad to investigate, they returned carrying the body of a young man, identified by the contents of his wallet as a student of the university.
All was peaceful for a couple of hours, till James again reported a mob approaching the far end of the causeway. Turner once more observed through his rifle sight, however something didn’t feel right as he watched the mob approach. Whereas the first group hand appeared to be a random assortment of people, this group was comprised of young men with mostly long uncut hair, also they moved too uniformly, the first couple of ranks tightly pressed together hiding those behind them. This time as the group reached the crossing half-way point Turner ordered the squads in the tower and dugout to target it’s front ranks with a volley of single rounds. Several men in the front rank were brought down and those behind stumbled as they moved forward over the bodies, as the second and third rows tripped and fell or dived away from the next expected volly of fire the centre of the mob was revealed. These men carried an assortment of rifles, sub-machine guns and even a couple of RPG’s. As soon as the the nature of the mob became apparant Turner ordered both squads to open fire: “Full auto 10 shot bursts on that bunch of turds right now!”. It was a turkey shoot, without cover and armor the attackers were torn apart by the hollow point rounds, several dived into the lake to escape whilst a few sheltered behind the body piles and attempted to return fire, one RPG was even fired in the general direction of the Embassy. As Turner watched the rocket pass over his head he realised it’s trajectory was not steep enough to miss the building, as he turned to watch it’s flight, he saw, that against orders some of the East roof squad had moved forward to watch the firefight. Before he had chance to bark a warning over the comm channel the grenade hit, and the screams relayed to him over his radio mingled with the sound of the explosion. Ordering Wilding and Cannings to pick off any surviving attackers using the sniper settings on their lasers, Turner bounded for the Embassy roof.
Heading up the stairs Turner called through to the cellar asking the Embassy medic to meet him on the roof. As he climbed out onto the gently pitched surface he heard Captain Roberts following behind him. Crossing at a crouched run to the front eastern corner of the roof he found Lieutenant Brown kneeling between the bodies of two bandsmen lying amongst the cracked and blackened stonework, several other squad members were standing around looking pale and stunned . The young officer was close to tears " I was with the west squad sargent I didn’t know they had left their posts , they .. they were both… neither was breathing when I got here…". Turner turned to the other marines, none of whom he noted had their weapons with them. “You lot get your bloody heads down and back to your posts now! And try and remember to keep hold of your fucking rifles next time there’s still live enemies on the causeway!”. Once the medic had confirmed both men were dead Turner returned to the front edge of the roof and radioed Canning’s, who reported that no attackers appeared active. Turner confirmed this from his elevated position. Informing them that he would cover them from the roof he sent two of James’ squad to investigate. Roberts was standing next to Turner when the men reported that about 30 of the enemy were dead and that there were 6 injured amongst the bodies. When Turner ask how bad were the injured they replied “One’s gonna fall apart if we try to carry him back the other five are too hurt to crawl away , but ain’t gonna die less we help ’em!” Roberts, looking very pale, turned to the NCO and said “Sargent I can’t give that order”. Still looking towards the causeway Turner replied “Wouldn’t ask you to Sir. Best meet with the Ambassador and XXXXXWITHHELDXXXXX hadn’t we”, relieved Roberts agreed.
The four of them met in the the Ambassador’s formal office and Turner explained that the medic had only limited supplies for treating battle injuries, whilst he had even more limited manpower for guarding prisoners. Roberts stated that the killing of wounded civilians even if they had adopted the role of combatants went against all his military training and ethics though he did conceed that they were not on a training exercise now. The Amdassador just outright refused to sanction as he put it “Murder for the sake of convienence!” XXXXXWITHHELDXXXXX looked sadly towards the man they expected to save all their lives and said that if they got out of this alive they would all be judged for their actions. Turner simply replied that if they forced him to to take actions like this then they were reducing their chances of getting out alive. However he gave one of the bodyguard squads orders to bring in the injured men. The five casulties, the sixth did indeed die whilst being transported to the Embassy, were made comfortable in the cellar and their wounds treated as best the medic could. Turner detailed one bodyguard squad to remain in the cellar as guards. Returning to his command post in the landrover pillbox he cursed that the first true engagement with the enemy had effectivly cost him six men!
Turner had the bodies removed from the causeway and dumped in the furthest corner of the stables, the two troopers he had placed in the old ice house at the rear of the Embassy. The assorted weapons he distributed amonst the squads stationed in the Embassy with the exception of the one remaining RPG which he deployed in the round tower. It was by now late afternoon and the defenders settled down again to await nightfall. Turner once again did the rounds and whilst he laughed and coursely joked with the squads in the tower and dugout ecouraging the men to compete with each other over who could descibe the firefight in its most brutal terms, with the civilians and the squads in the Embassy he was more subdued and reassuring, although he did reinforce the need for everyone to stay in their assigned positions.
As night fell the increasing darkness was accompanied by almost total silence, the city around them seemed deserted. The comms clerk reported that radio chatter was garbled and very confused, but from what he could tell several of the most fundamentally religious tribes had allied together against the liberal government and that the many national guard units had gone over to the side of the religious extremists.
Towards midnight Turner was making his final rounds before catching a few hours sleep, as he stood on the first floor looking out of the rear of the building one of the sentries on the roof reported hearing the sound of an aircraft. Snapping on his night vision Turner scanned the sky for a couple of minutes, but unable to locate the plane he radioed for clarification. The sentry confirmed that he could still hear the plane slowly approaching. Realising that any aircraft should by now have overflown the island Turner lowered his sights to the water and after several seconds spotted a patrol boat approaching from the south. Alterting all squads he ordered them to stay in cover. As the boat got nearer Turner saw that it’s bow mounted double machinegun was manned. As he issued a further warning to stay in cover the gunner opened fire strafing the rear of the Embassy’s first floor. As bullets and tracer rounds rebounded off the building’s stone face the marines forced themselves flat against the floor as glass and stone fragments peppered the upstairs rooms. Standing in cover Turner waited for the point of aim to pass the window next to him, then when it did he stepped out and sighted on the gunner behind his shield. Soundless and invisible the focused energy of his laser rifle flashed through the sailor’s head and he slid to the deck. Swearing at the marines to stay down Turner tracked the boats bow through his rifle’s sight, as a second sailor inched along the side of the patrol boat towards the machinegun Turner dropped him also. Moving back along the boat’s hull he located the wheelhouse and promptly shot the helmsman. The boat began to rock frantically then suddenly began to turn and accelerate away, Turner let them go, cursing silently that he didn’t have the RPG with him.
During the night a steady rain began to fall and by morning it had developed into a heavy downpour. Turner advised all squad sentries to use any image enhancing sights their weapons were fitted with and to keep chatter to a minimum. Standing at the door of the Embassy Turner estimated visability to be less than 300m, in all directions the far shore was an indistinct haze. An hour or so after dawn Cannings reported hearing engine noises at the far end of the causeway, Turner who had been pacing the shoreline, straining into the gloom, double timed over to the tower. Calling for total silence he concentrated on tuning out the drumming rain. He too could hear the deeper growl of labouring diesel engines. Alarmed he walked several metres out onto the causeway concentrating on the far shore as he advanced. Although indistinct through the heavy rain the grassy banks of the opposite shore betrayed movement as their profile and colour shifted.
Returning to his command bunker Turner ordered all squads to full alertness, demanding they all looked to their fronts. “Whatever comes out of this rain I want it nailed quicker than a 10Cr whore to a thin matteress, understand, short aimed bursts no full auto’s except you Wilding, OK.” In turn each squad sounded off its receipt of his orders. For almost a hour Turner kept his force on full alert, but as the morning slowly passed without incident and the sounds of engines ceased he allowed them a staged stand-down. As the hour hand moved into the pm the rain slacked considerably and from his vantage point Turner could make out a sizable mobile infantry force deployed on the opposite bank. He wasn’t the only one, as quickly the comm channel filled with cries of alarm and panic filled queries! Turner demanded radio silence and asked Cannings to report. The commando counted two dozen heavy trucks, two armoured cars, three gun carriages and what looked like several civilian cars and vans. As the NCO was doing the maths to calculate the number of troops his men were likely facing an amplified voice carried accross the water. “This is the XXXXXDELETEXXXX force commander will the officer in charge of the Imperial forces please cross over, under a flag of truce, to discuss surrender. You have ten minutes!”
Turner spoke with Roberts over the comm link and after a token moment of resistance the Captain agreed to allow the sargent to negotiate. Turner deposited his weapons in the pillbox and stood waiting in the rain for exactly eleven minutes, then he slowly started to walk across the causeway. He used the 500m walk to scout out the enemies’ numbers and equipment in more detail. As he drew nearer he identified the civilian vehicles as camera vans from various television stations. The native commander had obligingly formed his troops up in parade squares, probably as a martial display for the press. Turner counted 300 unarmoured militamen in rain ponchos miserably standing to attention, every rifle pointed upwards towards the rain! Besides the troops Turner spotted two lightly armoured scout cars each armed with 5cm guns and co-axial machineguns, more worryingly he observed that the three tracked gun carriages towed two 75mm anti-tank guns and a 5cm quad barrelled anti-aircraft rig.
A small open sided tent had be erected and standing underneath it were two officers. Off to Turners right a crush of press and cameramen huddled in a larger tent eager to record the humiliation of the Imperium. Turner pointedly stopped just short of the roof’s cover and stood at rest with the rain bouncing off the dome of his stubbled skull and running over the polished plates of his armour with its’ yellow NCO chevrons stenciled on the right chest plate over his surname.
“Where’s your commanding officer, man!” demanded the senior officer
“Having breakfast and getting shaved Sir, he’s a late riser I afraid. Said he’d be along later if some real soldiers showed up.” Turner replied in a cheery helpful voice.
“But.. but your just a sergeant, how can you negotiate a surrender!” stammered the national guard Major, obviously finding it hard to accept the situation
“Oh that’s easy Sir, all your men just drop their weapons, put their hands in the air and I’ll guard them till everyone else wakes up.” Turner answered cheerfully.
The Major struggled to respond “Ah… em but what. You can’t be serious if you think we’re going to surrender to you…”
Turner attempted to sound confused “Oh sorry Sir I misunderstood, I thought you and your men wanted to surrender to us and seek protection within the Embassy”
At this point, amid the click, whirr and flash of cameras, and before he could speak further the Major’s second in command leaned in and whispered to him. The Major listened for a moment, shook his head, “humphed…” then seemed to agree. “If your commanding officer thinks these negotiations are so trivial then I shall leave you to talk further with my second in command: Political Captain Faha’dee.” with this the Major about turned and marched away. The Captain and Turner now appraised one another.It was Faha’dee who spoke first. “We are aware that along with the Ambassador and his family several Imperial dignitaries of high birth are also in residence within the Embassy. We are here to offer them protection during these difficult times and escort them to a safer location in case the situation grows worse. We are of course happy to offer your marines protection too, all they need do is lay down their arms and remove their armour.”
Now when he spoke Turner’s tone was deeper more serious, gone all signs of the blankly helpful NCO trying to understand an officer’s unclear orders. As he addressed Faha’dee he spoke as one might to a dog that had just taken a dump under the table whilst guests dined.
“Can’t do that Captain, got to think of the women and children!”
“That’s who I am thinking of and I suggest you do the same Sargeant.”
“It’s the morality of what you’re demanding I’m concerned about.” explained Turner"You see my men are all commando under their armour."
Faha’dee stood still for a moment then gave a derisive snort “Oh yes sargeant a very good pun indeed now please stop wasting my time.”
Turner stood unmoving till again Faha’dee broke the silence “Very well sargeant you’ve had your little moment of insulting bravardo now let us speak plainly and seriously before I have my men shoot you, white flag or not.”
The casual reference to his men was not missed by Turner and as he looked round he saw a squad of four soldiers standing slightly apart from the main body of men. Like Faha’dee their uniforms were just a little darker, webbing and boots a little better polished and their epaulets and collars carried silver skull buttons. They all carried well maintained assault rifles. Overhearing their officer’s words two of them raised their weapons towards Turner. The NCO was unfazed, looking back over his shoulder towards the landrover he whispered into his throat mike. Wildings young smiling face, topped with blond fuzz, suddenly popped into view and he waved cheerfully towards his sargeant. As he did so he slowly panned the auto-cannon horizontally. Many of the reporters and several of the national guardsmenn ducked as the weapon’s barrel tracked over them, Turner smiled as his bead speaker brought him the rattattat sound of Wilding imitating the weapon’s bark.
“Let me see a picture of your wife.” Turner suddenly asked
Caught by surprise by the request Faha’dee’s “Why?” of enquiry came out as a squeek.
“Because I think you can always tell a lot about a man by the woman prepared to marry him.”
“Very well sargeant I will indulge you.” Faha’dee produced a picture of a surprisingly pretty young women dressed in modest clothing standing beside a gate, her eyes downcast.
“Now Sargeant Turner a picture of your wife please”
“I’m not married Captain. I’m a Marine I don’t need to be. I get to use a woman each time I kill a man. If they can be found the wives, sisters or mothers of those we kill will do!” As he made this boast Turner was pleased to see several of the nearest militiamen exchange quick glances and shuffle nervously.
" I see you still insist on playing games sargeant, I however am deadly serious when I say that your attitude forces me to withdraw the offer of surrender from your troops. The civilian staff and dignitaries are still welcome to my protection, but there will be no quarter for your men!"
Turner sighed deeply then spoke “Faha’dee do you really want to be responsible for the death of so many men?”
Sensing the first signs of weakness in the NCO Faha’dee harshly snapped “You had the chance to save your mens lives moments ago, but instead choose to be insulting, now you have till dawn tomorrow: then we attack and your men will die!”
Turner stared directly into the Political officer’s eyes and calmly replied “No captain if you attack at dawn my men will kill!” With those final words he turned and walked slowly back along the causeway.Turner crossed back onto the grass of the island and wallked towards the tower. As he appraoched the solid stone building Cannings stepped out into view. The young commando looked worried.
“Didn’t want to warn you over the mike Sarge, but the Ambassador had one of his goons tap your comms so he could listen in to the negotiations. Unfortunatly they broadcast them to all squads.”
“Shit trooper have you shot them yet?”
“No Sarge thought I let you” Cannings smiled
“How steady is everyone?” asked Turner
“All the squads are fine – most are still pissing themselves laughing, but the Ambassador’s spitting fit to burst an artery!” the trooper warned. “The Captain’s gone down to try to calm him.”
Turner dismissed the trooper back to his post and headed for the cellar, stopping briefly at the command post to collect his side arm.
As Turner entered the cellar the scene that met him told him most of what he felt he didn’t want to know. Off to his left XXXXWITHHELDXXXX and her consort looked over as he entered. Her face was diplomatically neutral, but his was fixed with a tightness that did not hide his anger. The Ambassador and Roberts stood almost nose to nose directly in front of him. Roberts’ face was pale whilst the Ambassador was visibly shaking, his cheeks flushed and his lips wet with spittle. It was the pitiful tableau to Turner’s right which caused the veteran marine to feel the first rising gore of real fury: dressed in coats and travel clothes, with small travel bags at their feet stood the Ambassador’s wife and three young children. All three children were sobbing softly whilst the Ambassador’s wife knelt comforting them, her own eyes red rimmed and wet with held back tears. One cheek the NCO noticed was as scarlet as her husbands.
As Turner stepped further into the underground room the Ambassador rounded on him almost hysterical with anger.
“How dare you, a common soldier, presume to trade our lives for your arrogant disrespect of an opposing forces officer and his offer of protection. Good god man there are women and children trapped here and their lives are precious. Unlike your attitude to your troops I have a sense of honour that compels me to protect them! I have already let Roberts know how displeased I am with his deferral to you, now let me tell you I want you under arrest at once and I will be ensuring you are drummed out of the service with as much dishonour as your insolent and cavailier behavour here today deserves!
As these words were spat at him Turner stood staring into the middle distance, the only emotion he betrayed was through a darkening of his expression at the Ambassador’s failure to acknowledge his commanding officer’s rank. As he wound down Turner lowered his chin to look down at the shorter man. Captain Roberts seeing the NCO’s expression took half a step forward but gratefully stopped as Turner spoke, his tone dry and neutral.
“As you wish Sir.”
Removing his sidearm, and after ensuring the safety was on, Turner handed it to the Ambassador. Following the gesture the Ambassador ordered Roberts to call in two troopers to escort the NCO to a secure room.
Several silent minutes passed, extended by Robert’s need to repeat his order. Eventually two very nervous marines entered the cellar and saluted. As both men looked to Turner for explanations, the Ambassador snapped:
“I believe Captain Roberts is your commanding officer I suggest you look to him for orders”
At this both men took refuge in the safety of saluting again. As Roberts gave them orders to lock the NCO in one of the cellar vaults both men hesitated, looking uncomfortable and miserable. Still holding Turner’s gun the Ambassador, mistaking their reluctance for fear, yelled at them:
“He’s unarmed and under arrest, march him after me at once!”
With this he turned and stormed deeper into the cellers. One of the troopers gave a small gesture inviting the sargent to lead and all three soldiers followed the Ambassador. Twenty meters deeper into the celler complex and out of sight of the others they found the Ambassador unlocking a barred gate that covered an arched alcove. As he drew level with the diplomat Turner stopped and turned towards the other man. The Ambassador began to shout another order, but his words choked off as Turner punched him violently in the throat! As he fell forward his hands reaching for his damaged windpipe, Turner caught the Ambassador under the arms and lowered him to his knees. Spluttering tears and snot the injured man tried to croak out a few words.
“Best not try to speak for a moment or two Sir just breathe.” Turner advised.
During this exchange neither marine guard had moved, now the braver of the two spoke:
“Sarge please, what the fucks going on….are you under arrest….. is Captain Roberts… " the man stamered.
“Stand down both of you, the Ambassador and I just need to get a little barrack room pecking order sorted out, it won’t take long, then we can get back topside.”
Looking down at the Ambassador Sarge picked up his dropped sidearm and addressed him directly.
“I played nice back there, with the calling you Sir and the respectful speaking so as not to humiliate you in front of everyone, now however you are going to do what I say, humiliating or not, or I will shoot you in the gut and let you bleed painfully to death understand?”
Despite the pain he was in the Ambassador’s anger dragged a “How dare you…” from his lips.
“Mr Ambassador you are a coward and a fucking idiot. There are men out there willing to fight and kill to defend you, some of them will die in the next twenty four hours. I will not allow you to disgrace their sacrifice with your behaviour. Four men are dead and nine injured as a result of keeping you and your staff safe. You may have been hogtied by your codes and etiquette but the fact remains we are only here because you let yourself get trapped in this situation. I will not allow you to appear to abandon my men here, nor will I let you turn yourself and your family into hostages or barganing tokens. Fucking hell man can’t you see Faha’dee wants to humiliate the Imperium, any way he can!”
Turner allowed his words to sink in for several minutes as the Ambassador recovered, eventually as the kneeling man started to stir Turner helped him to his feet.
“Very well sergeant you have shown me that in your world your are both willing a capable of beating me into complience, but I warn you when we get out of this and return to my circles of power and influence I will see you punished.”
“Sir if we survive your welcome to try!”
All four men returned to the main celler room, once there the Ambassador croaked a brief statement to everyone to the effect that when Turner had appraised him of the whole picture he had re-evaluated their position and agreed that the sergeant’s stratagey was indeed the best. The two Imperial nobels listened silently exchanging several brief looks with one another, Captain Roberts simply listened then excused himself, “The men need checking up on” he offered. The Ambassador’s wife let a small smile of relief reach her eyes. Once finished the Ambassador retreated to the safety of the deeper cellar. As Turner ordered the two marines back to their posts the ambassador’s wife came up to him.
“My husband is a good man sergeant, but sometimes his training and the pressure of his position cause him to be troubled and frustrated, then he can act without thinking and make poor decisions……he’s not a bad man, but his temper can last without an outlet.”
Turner noticed how the women kept her inflammed cheek hidden from him, also now closer to her he saw the darkness of an old bruise, almost perfectly covered by make-up, ringing her eye.
“I understand Mam, never had to cope with that kind of pressure myself and I’m grateful for that, I’ll send down a female trooper to help you with the children, in case you need her, Eh?”
“Thank you sergeant Turner.” she smiled.
Before he could make the exit XXXXWITHHELDXXXX’s companion caught up with him. “I did not realise a marine NCO would be so well trained in the diplomatic arts, but well done there sergeant. Before you leave may I have a moment of you most valuble time?”
“Of course Sir, How may I help?”
“You believe Faha’dee to be a man of his word, and that he won’t attack till dawn?”
“I don’t know about holding back so as not to break his word, he thinks he has us trapped and ready for the slaughter, the delay is theatre for the media… A dawn attack against the hated offworlders, gives him a full day’s media coverage.”
“In that case Sergeant perhaps you would permit XXXXWITHHELDXXXX and myself to visit and talk with some of the troops at their posts.”
“If you don’t mind wearing flak jackets and helmets, against the risk of an independant sniper or two, then I see no reason why not, it always does the men good to remind them of what they’re fighting for. Thank you for the suggestion Sir, and if you were able to redistribute some of the Embassy’s stock of cigars as you did your tour I know that would be most welcome.” Turner suggested.
“A captial suggestion sergeant and I am grateful to you for indugling us, I know we are adding to your headaches. Also I think we both know in which direction the gratitude should be flowing. "
With that the the nobel let Turner leave to follow captain Roberts.